Eating a Plant-Based Diet (On a Budget)

About nine months ago, I took the plunge and finally became a vegetarian after years of wanting to try. Going to UVM and watching so many of my friends find sustainable, healthy diets as both vegetarians and vegans, I felt like going vegetarian was a completely attainable option for me. But, the switch from omnivore to herbivore proved to be a little difficult for me, and I struggled to find a consistent source of protein and nutrients. At one point, I became pretty iron deficient and was so exhausted I could barely leave my bed for about a week. Clearly, what I was doing was not the best option for a healthy mind and body, and I needed to find a solution so I could feel my best.

Before going vegetarian, cooking for myself consisted of baking chicken, sauteing spinach, and making brown rice basically every night. I was happy with this, but cooking felt boring, and more like a chore than something I enjoyed. However, as someone now adopting a plant-based diet, I was forced to be more creative with my food, and being in the kitchen morphed from something I needed to do, to something I thoroughly enjoyed doing. And the best part is, I’ve been able to do it on a completely affordable budget! Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian and plant-based meal videos that have inspired me to get creative in the kitchen, all on a college-friendly budget.

  1. 1. On the Fancier Side

    Thanks to YouTuber Caitlin Shoemaker, I’ve been able to make some pretty delicious plant-based meals, most of which are under three dollars! If you ever want to impress your friends with a boujee dinner, I highly recommend watching this video. The recipes may seem a little intimidating, but Caitlin manages to break them down in an incredibly cohesive and manageable way. I recently made the romesco veggies with crispy polenta and chickpeas for a friend and I, and we both loved it. And the best part--the cost breakdown per serving came out to $2.64! If you are considering going plant-based, or even just want to try out some new recipes for Meatless Mondays, check out the rest of her Youtube channel. You’ll be sure to find something tasty!

  2. 2. In a Hurry? Not In the Mood To Cook?

    For those days that you’re feeling a little on the unmotivated side (or buried in homework),  I recommend any of the recipes from Cheap Lazy Vegan! This video in particular has four vegan meals for under $1.50 per serving, and you probably already have all the ingredients you need in your kitchen! If you need quick and easy meal ideas that are abundant in nutrients, this is the video to watch. Plus, these recipes are incredibly easy to meal prep and eat throughout the week! Just throw them in the freezer and thaw ‘em out as you please. These are legitimately perfect recipes for those of us who are always on the go.

  3. 3. For Those Days You Just Need Some Comfort Food

    And finally, if you’re looking for some easy, plant-based comfort food, look no further than this video from Madeleine Olivia! From vegan quesadillas to roasted cherry tomato pasta, Madeleine makes comfort food specifically catered to college students, and doesn’t break the bank while doing it. I, for one, will 100% be making that pasta sometime this weekend.

Going plant-based has a lot of benefits for our environment, and can be great for our overall health if done correctly (i.e. not ending up in an iron deficiency like I did). Also, remember that being on a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be vegan or vegetarian. Plant-based simply means having the foundation of your diet built around veggies, fruit, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Just because I chose to mostly lean towards the vegan end of the spectrum, doesn’t mean that I limit myself to that specifically. Overall, I try to do what makes my body feel the best that it can, and sometimes that means eating some Chocolate Therapy from Ben and Jerry’s at the end of a hard week. You know your body better than anyone else does, and being intentional and eating intuitively is truly the best thing you can do for yourself. So, if that means adding some chicken or other meat to these meals, do it! Listen to your body, do whatever makes you feel best, and eat up!




Edited by Emma Paquette on 11/8/20